Yellowstone National Park Will Finally Let Visitors Do This, Starting Now
The iconic site just announced a big change that could affect your upcoming visit.
Travelers flock from across the U.S. around the world to take in the splendor of Yellowstone National Park. In 2021, the iconic site drew roughly 4.8 million visitors, setting an all-time annual record, according to the National Park Service (NPS). But while the park's 2.2 million acres provide plenty of accessibility to the great outdoors, there's also a fair bit of upkeep required to keep it that way. And now, Yellowstone officials have just announced that visitors will now be able to do one thing again for the first time in months. Read on to see how this change could affect your next visit to the national park.
Yellowstone has been working to rebound from a catastrophic event earlier this year.
After welcoming more visitors than ever before in 2021, Yellowstone's 2022 high season kicked off by surpassing an entirely different milestone. Over the weekend of June 11, record-high flooding devastated the site as two to three inches of sudden rainfall combined with more than five inches of snow that melted due to warming temperatures, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The catastrophic occurrence led to the evacuation of over 10,000 visitors who were on-site during what the U.S. Geological Survey called a "one in 500-year event," per CNN.
The surging water also devastated many vital parts of the park's infrastructure, washing out major roads and essential bridges that traverse the site. Officials closed Yellowstone for a week while they assessed the damage and made necessary repairs before reopening much of the park's southern roads and entrances to visitors on June 22. In an initial statement, officials announced that the park's northern areas were "severely damaged" and would likely "remain closed for a substantial length of time," according to Forbes.
But as progress has continued, Yellowstone has crept back towards normalcy for many visitors. And now, there's been another significant change in the site's accessibility.
Officials announced that Yellowstone visitors will now be able to do one thing for the first time in months.
On Oct. 15, Yellowstone officials reopened the park's Northeast Entrance Road for visitors for the first time since it was shuttered in June, according to a press release. Flood-damaged routes connecting Tower Junction to the park's gate near Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, have been repaved and repaired and are open to arriving guests without restrictions.
Yellowstone officials clarify that only one small section of the road near the heavily-visited trailhead to Trout Lake is still unpaved, but it will remain open while work finishes over the next 10 days, according to the statement. They caution guests to anticipate some traffic control and delays when crossing this area.
"We are very pleased to be restoring public access to the northeast corridor just four months after the June flood event," Cam Sholly, the park's superintendent, said in the statement. "I commend the collective efforts of the National Park Service, the Federal Highway Administration and Oftedal Construction, Inc. to complete this monumental task in such a short amount of time."
There's still some work happening elsewhere on the park's roads.
According to the park's statement, the latest announcement officially marks the reopening of 99 percent of the site's roads after the catastrophic events in June. However, a remaining strip of Old Gardiner Road—which runs between Gardiner, Montana, and the famous Mammoth Hot Springs—is still undergoing repairs as four miles of the route are repaved and over 5,000 feet of guardrail are installed. Officials say they expect the work to be completed by Nov. 1, at which point they will also reopen the park's north gate, The Washington Post reports.
Work is also still underway on a small section of road in Lamar Canyon. Officials say that while the route is paved, it will remain a single-lane road throughout the winter with a temporary stop light to control traffic with minimal delays.
More expected changes are soon coming to Yellowstone's roads.
While the major road reopening brings the park back to near full functionality, it also comes at a critical time for Yellowstone. On Nov. 1, many of the park's smaller roads will close for winter as per the regular schedule, leaving the newly paved stretch as the only viable connection between the site's north and northeast entrances for the season, The Post reports.
Officials add that roadwork will continue following the reopening of the route "for as long as weather permits," with additional work continuing in the spring. For now, visitors should treat the stretch as an active construction zone and "will need to use caution and watch for crews and heavy equipment."